Tim Duncan, working against the Suns' Jermaine O'Neal, has helped keep the Spurs on top. (USA Today Sports)
Hey San Antonio, here comes LeBron James and the Miami Heat.
The San Antonio Spurs remain atop the Yahoo! Sports NBA rankings for the fifth consecutive week, but are now getting some heat from the Heat. Miami has won 11 straight games and has not lost since Feb. 1 against the Indiana Pacers. San Antonio, however, has won eight of its past 10 games and has a light schedule ahead.
Records are through Monday.
1. San Antonio Spurs (45-13, previous ranking: first): Tony Parker’s absence is expected to last just one game, with a likely return from a right arm injury Wednesday against the Phoenix Suns. And yes, Parker is an MVP candidate.
2. Miami Heat (40-14, previous ranking: fourth): Assuming both win their next game, the Heat will put their 12-game winning streak on the line Friday at home against the Memphis Grizzlies’ eight-game streak.
3. Oklahoma City Thunder (41-15, previous ranking: second): The Thunder brought a needed veteran presence back by re-signing free agent Derek Fisher. Fisher could be a strong mentor for guard Reggie Jackson, who is still trying to prove himself.
4. Los Angeles Clippers (40-18, previous ranking: third): An NBA source said a possible trade sending Kevin Garnett to Los Angeles from the Boston Celtics for guard Eric Bledsoe and center DeAndre Jordan was “closer to happening than people think.”
5. Memphis Grizzlies (37-18, previous ranking: fifth): Guard Michael Conley is now the Grizzlies’ all-time leader in steals with 642 in 411 career games. So whose record did Conley break? That of Rudy Gay, who recently was traded to the Toronto Raptors.
6. Indiana Pacers (35-21, previous ranking: eighth): Did you know the Pacers have the NBA’s best defense, allowing just 89.4 points per game, and the Grizzlies are second at 89.6? The Pacers host the high-scoring Golden State Warriors on Tuesday.
7. Denver Nuggets (36-22, previous ranking: seventh): Denver appeared poised to challenge for the fourth seed in the West about 10 days ago, but Memphis now has a 2½-game lead over the Nuggets. A Memphis-Denver first-round matchup is intriguing.
8. New York Knicks (33-20, previous ranking: sixth): New Knicks forward Kenyon Martin could make his season debut Wednesday against Golden State. New York, 19th in the NBA in defense, is in need of Martin’s defense and intensity.
9. Golden State Warriors (33-23, previous ranking: 11th): Center Andrew Bogut is expected to miss his third straight game Tuesday at Indiana because of a disc protrusion that is causing back spasms. The Warriors are 27-17 without Bogut this season.
10. Brooklyn Nets (33-24, previous ranking: ninth): Quietly, the Knicks and the Nets are in a battle for the Atlantic Division title with the former owning a two-game lead. Unfortunately, the Knicks-Nets four-game season series is already over. C’mon, NBA.
11. Atlanta Hawks (32-23, previous ranking: 12th): Hawks forward Al Horford had the third 20-20 game of his career with 23 points and a career-high-tying 22 rebounds in a win at Detroit on Monday night. The Hawks have won three straight.
12. Chicago Bulls (32-24, previous ranking: 10th): Yahoo! Sports NBA analyst Greg Anthony said injured Bulls guard Derrick Rose (knee) could make his season debut as early as Thursday against the visiting Philadelphia 76ers.
13. Houston Rockets (31-27, previous ranking: 14th): Coach Kevin McHale, arguably the greatest post player in NBA history, worked with new forward Thomas Robinson on his post game after Monday’s practice. Robinson could debut Wednesday versus Milwaukee.
14. Boston Celtics (30-27, previous ranking: 15th): Kudos to the road-weary Celtics for playing their fifth road game in seven days, an overtime win over the Utah Jazz on Monday. Boston will not play again until Friday against the visiting Warriors.
15. Utah Jazz (31-26, previous ranking: 13th): The trade deadline passed with big men Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap staying put despite their pending free agency this summer. Both are expected to generate strong interest.
16. Los Angeles Lakers (28-30, previous ranking: 17th): If the Lakers defeat the visiting Timberwolves on Thursday and take care of business at home against Atlanta on Sunday, Los Angeles would finally bring its record to .500.
17. Milwaukee Bucks (26-28, previous ranking: 16th): Guard J.J. Redick had 16 points and seven assists in his first game with the Bucks, a loss to visiting Atlanta last Saturday. Would love to see Redick, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis in a H-O-R-S-E game.
18. Portland Trail Blazers (26-30, previous ranking: 18th): New point guard Eric Maynor is a solid backup for rookie Damian Lillard and offers the Blazers security because he will be a restricted free agent this summer.
19. Dallas Mavericks (25-30, previous ranking: 19th): Is it too late for Dallas to rebound to land a playoff spot? The Mavericks have actually won five of their last seven, but sit 4½ games behind the Rockets for the eighth and final West spot.
20. Toronto Raptors (23-34, previous ranking: 21st): The Raptors are 7-4 since acquiring forward Rudy Gay, but need to play even better to make the playoffs because they are 4½ games behind the eighth-seeded Bucks in the East.
21. Washington Wizards (18-37, previous ranking: 27th): The Wizards are 13-9 this season with point guard John Wall and have won seven of their last nine games. Even so, Washington sits 12th in the Eastern Conference standings.
22. Philadelphia 76ers (22-32, previous ranking: 20th): Center Andrew Bynum recently practiced, but has yet to make his debut because of discomfort in both knees. Bynum’s return could give the Sixers the needed push to make the postseason.
23. Detroit Pistons (22-37, previous ranking: 22nd): The Pistons have dropped four of five since the All-Star break, including three straight without point guard Brandon Knight, who was out with a hyperextended right knee.
24. Minnesota Timberwolves (20-33, previous ranking: 23rd): It appears to be a good thing that the Wolves didn’t trade forward Derrick Williams. He is averaging 13.6 points and 7.8 rebounds in 27 minutes per game in February.
25. New Orleans Hornets (20-37, previous ranking: 24th): As expected, guard Eric Gordon remained with the Hornets as the trade deadline passed, but don’t be surprised if he is traded during the off-season with more time to make a deal.
26. Sacramento Kings (19-38, previous ranking: 25th): Sacramento has dropped five straight games and 13 of its past 16. Odds are strong that the losing will continue as the Kings visit the Heat, winners of 11 straight, on Tuesday.
27. Phoenix Suns (18-39, previous ranking: 26th): The West’s worst team has dropped three straight games and seven of their past eight. But there is hope as the struggling Timberwolves visit Phoenix on Tuesday.
28. Cleveland Cavaliers (18-38, previous ranking: 28th): Has anyone had a crazier injury season than the Cavaliers? Forward Omri Casspi had surgery in Orlando last Saturday to remove his appendix after complaining about stomach pain.
29. Orlando Magic (15-41, previous ranking: 29th): The Magic have an opportunity to snap their 10-game road losing streak – and five straight losses overall – Tuesday night against the Sixers, who have also dropped five straight.
30. Charlotte Bobcats (13-43, previous ranking: 30th): The NBA’s worst team has the task of trying to end a three-game losing streak on the road Tuesday against the Clippers, winners of five of their past six. It has to get better, right, Michael Jordan?
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